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02/15/2012

How could personal knowledge management help promote/drive [effective?] KM at a global level?


Knowledge Management

 

How could personal knowledge management help promote/drive [effective?] KM at a global level?

 

            In today’s business environment wherein the development of new technologies seems to define organisational processes, these contemporary organisations are in constant need of knowledge – knowledge that is flexible, spontaneous and utilisable. Knowledge management (KM) is the structure by which organisation perceives all of its procedures as a business process. The onset of globalization, in addition, prompted different businesses and leaders to think and act globally to be able to gain competitive advantage. This, however, could not explain the birth of knowledge management solely. Knowledge management, I supposed, is not a new concept. Even before there had been the idea of knowledge management or whether it already existed, people are not aware that it was indeed knowledge management. What is new about knowledge management is the growing recognition of the business environment to the concept with respect to globalization. It is the most substantive and actions-based approach, global integrationists’ think of it as a way to respond to the increasing social, ethical and economic constraints. Davenport and Prusak (1998) claim that KM practitioners assume that knowledge is the most important resource to organisation since it is not replicated by rivals, making it the key source of uniqueness or broadly competitive advantage. True enough, because of the trickling down effect of knowledge aside from its shared nature, knowledge could be sourced from both internally and externally. Through the employees, for instance, knowledge assets of the organisation could be further nurture for the utilisation of the organisation itself. How personal knowledge management could assist in the promotion of effective KM in the global scale will be discussed. It is the goal of this report to discuss KM and its relation to personal KM.

Knowledge management

KM is defined as the process of creating, capturing and utilising knowledge for the purpose of enhancing organisational performance. KM concerns the exploitation and development of tacit and explicit knowledge assets inherent to an organisation (Bassie, 1997). To embrace the idea of KM means to further the organisation's objectives. Nonetheless, there is a necessity for systems for the creation and maintenance of knowledge repositories. Through these systems also, sharing of knowledge and organisational learning are cultivated and facilitated (Rowley, 2005). Nonaka (2005) and Rowley (2005) noted that tacit knowledge deals with or rooted in action or involvement in the particular context and has both cognitive and technical elements hence subjective whereas explicit knowledge deals with written or passed knowledge that can be easily expressed such as company rules, knowledge about the strategy of competitors, etc which are documented knowledge in nature.

As knowledge becomes important, its management becomes equally important as well especially for companies that operate in a global scale. Put simply, knowledge is the amount of information necessary to function and achieve goals. Such knowledge is also the capacity to make information from data and to transform it into useful and meaningful information (Uit Beijerse, 2000). Uit Beijerse (2000) also noted that knowledge is the capacity of the people to think creatively, interpret and act and the attitude that makes people want to think, interpret and act. KM therefore means to manage all of these concerns. As such, KM deals with collection and management of critical knowledge for the purpose of increasing the capacity to achieve results. Having said this, the increased realization of knowledge as the core competence of organizations is increasingly becoming a crucial survival factor.  

KM puts emphasis on the creation of new knowledge in practice as well as its timely application of organizational knowledge for the purpose of maintaining strategic advantage (Lim and Klobas, 2000). Strategic is the key term which means that any organization should be proactive and forward thinking with plans of action that passes through thorough decision-making process. Drucker (1993) contextualized this by saying that the organization has to be alert in knowing which knowledge is new, in the process or already obsolete to take full advantage of the potential of that knowledge. In succeeding in the global context, there are two ways that the organizations could exploit. First is through managing existing knowledge which includes the development of knowledge repositories, knowledge compilation, arrangement and categorization. And second is through managing knowledge-specific activities such as knowledge acquisition, creation, distribution, communication, sharing and application (Stenmark, 2001).

Knowledge management in modern organizations

            Arthur (1996) made mention that the business environment of today is defined by dynamic changing markets and technological advancement. Thereby saying, businesses are no longer confined with boundaries instead are being internationalized. Globalization is one phenomenon that affects businesses directly and indirectly. Johnson and Turner (2003) define globalization as “'the growing interdependence of countries world-wide through the increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions in goods and services and of international capital flows, and also through the more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology” (p. 23). On the other end of the spectrum, there are inherent opportunities and threats to globalization. As such, organizations must become more flexible in this environment to be more competitive. Required for these organizations is to adapt with the changes that are taking place and therefore be able to sustain the business operations through effective use of knowledge.

            In sum, in building knowledge-intensive organizations, human processes are critical apart from business processes. The foremost critical success factor is the intellectual assets of the employees. The key is to focus on people first. Leadership, organization, technology and learning are intertwining elements in KM. KM championing starts with the most valuable employees which initially gives value to knowledge creation and collaboration. Organizational learning could be one of the basic process to determine KM champions since it address internal communications, promoting cross-functional teams and creating and learning community within the organization. People issues are also endemic to any change initiative by which KM activities seem to bring them out in abundance. Engaging in transformational learning, the accomplishment of the ultimate goal of creating organizational learning is also by itself a virtue which guides the organization and the people in continually developing personally and professionally. Self-actualization implies that the sense of ownership and knowledge are very important for organizational members. This means that building organizational learning community is a mutual-helping and self-helping endeavor, thereby, making lifelong learning evident in organizations.     

The realization of the need for knowledge management is a byproduct of the information age, where almost everyone can gain knowledge and information in a snap through the use of the Internet and other digital information devices. It is logical that in information-rich societies and industries, knowledge is the real resource (Gumbley, 1998). Managers of today argue for a "pull" approach to knowledge distribution (accessed when needed), rather than the typical "push" strategy.  Sharing insights and learning among dispersed groups of professionals can yield great benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and speed of solution delivery. Managing the knowledge of organizations involve harnessing the intellectual capacity of employees by building appropriate business processes and supporting information systems (Gumbley, 1998). The failure to submit to this effort may endanger an organization’s status as they lag behind key competitors in resources, technologies and other important key points in their business. It would ultimately lead to be defeated in the business war. Knowledge becomes a key factor in creating values as it helps the organization perceive the business environment and react to changes (von Foerster, 1995; Arthur, 1996).

            Basically, the changes in the economic landscape brought by globalization and technology economics made possible the creation and establishment of resources facilities, networking, automation standardization and learning. The existing functional layers are knowledge sharing, knowledge innovation and the latest knowledge society (Roehrl, 2004). What we are witnessing today is the continuous creation of a knowledge culture which will transcend beyond enhancing knowledge innovation system and creating industry competitive advantages but on treating knowledge as a norm, values and belief. The creation of new knowledge is important on how the firms treat knowledge or information per se. Elicited by economists and strategy academies suggested that organizations are a most noticeable portfolio of capabilities but are limited in its effectiveness by the prevailing cognitive and social skills. Knowledge, as the main building blocks of this, impacts how the executive teams treat and manage such (Prusak, 2001). Though there had been the existence of new ideas placing old, organizations as the primary information processors act on knowledge as their asset which are regarded to be a strong force that binds their actions.

            Quantity movement, as a new knowledge, will deal with the management of the amount of transferred or exchanged knowledge, dependent of the technologies that address and manipulate such. Quantity movement will focus on the efficiency of the measurable knowledge from internal customers, overt processes and shared transparent goals albeit knowledge work limitations. All employees are expected to locate and report potential and existing problem points and to identify specific process improvement opportunities at operational-level. (Managers are expected to do the same in business-level and the senior management at the corporate-level.) Taking part into this initiative will provide you the opportunity to learn new skills and to create a chance at extending your portfolio on individual knowledge management. As functional individuals, the employees will contribute to the globalize KM through personal KM.

Personal knowledge management

            Personal KM (or PKM) primarily aimed at acquiring ability to transform people, organizations, systems and contexts. Efficiency of PKM is measured by how such can contribute to the effectiveness of an individual in integrating the use of knowledge in his or her daily activities (Grundspenkis, 2007). As Wright (2005) puts it, PKM are the processes that an individual applied to support work activities. These individuals are held responsible of their own growth and learning (Smedley, 2009). Pauleen (2009) maintains that PKM provides an avenue for an individual to be more effective in personal, organizational and social levels especially through technologically-driven processes. Personal KM is therefore applied to increase the understanding of the changing nature and dynamics of the organizational system and the changes in the system itself. . Young (2009) manifests such by saying that in a rapidly growing global knowledge economy there is a need to be an effective knowledge worker. One’s ability to create, capture, store, share, apply and sell your knowledge is critical. An individual’s openness to knowledge development and sharing within the network will be a key driver in maintaining personal effectiveness and hence organizational sustainability in the long run.

            With this said, it is the responsibility of the individuals to share and enlarge knowledge assets and knowledge modeling so that all organizational members would be able to make use of and produce knowledge and new knowledge within the workplace. In enabling knowledge management processes, the premise is for the people to encompass identification and mapping of intellectual assets as well as generating new knowledge for competitive advantage and making information accessible for each individual. Considerably, those organizations who failed to change over time to adapt to changing conditions will die off and swallowed up by more successful competitors. Further generation and development of the knowledge base of the organization is accomplished through a bottoms-up approach thus the role of the individuals who are at the lower-tier leading to top management, industry and sector play a key role in KM through challenging and developing own knowledge base. Best knowledge should be also shared within the individual’s network where one individual feeds knowledge to other individuals and to the top.    

            However, there are also inherent threats to personal KM essentially because it heavily relies on the competency of an individual to process the knowledge. Jefferson (2006) states that personal KM should be also about helping that individual to overcome the frustrations associated with information overload. In this way also, the process will allow an individual to improve their personal competences and effectiveness.  Bailey and Clarke (2001) suggested that PKM should be of managerial currency, actionable and relevant. This means personal relevance which is an essential characteristic of usable ideas. It could be said that personal relevance has a direct linkage to personal effectiveness and, according to the author, long-term organizational interest. Individuals working for virtually any organization should be dignified therefore by acknowledging their ideas. As it enhances personal learning, it is also an incentive for organizational learning. Fundamentally, an individual will function more effectively in an environment whereby s/he can feel relevant and of mutually beneficial nature. The organization learns of new ideas that stems from the ideas of the people working for it.

            Already mention is the fact that individual thrive more when there is technology involved. Aghinotri & Troutt (2009) assert that “the success of technology utilization resides not simply in whether individuals use technology, but if this usage actually improves effectiveness. For their own benefit, individuals should consider and assess the technology tools in the context of how they will be aligned with specific PKM skills.” In part, this could be taken in the context of usage behavior of individuals. Individual’s use of personal KM will definitely vary and with differing effects on organizational KM. The primary predictor, whether through technological medium, is users’ involvement and users’ innovativeness (Doong and Wang, 2009). Involvement and innovativeness strategies to investigate PKM would be apparent in increasing the level of social interaction that occurs within the organization, as only some may be technologically assisted.

            Nonetheless, empowerment is an issue here especially, for instance, because not all individuals have the access to knowledge or are able to effectively process and take advantage of own knowledge to be delivered or shared in organization schema. Schaurhofer and Peschl (2005) states that “empowerment describes the processes of how to gain and increase autonomy and self-determination in one's own environment.” True enough, empowerment could be considered as form of knowledge processes.  The motivation to be involved with organizational issues is heavily dependent on personal knowledge and on the abilities to access knowledge resources. As such, discovering one's own strengths, constructing solutions, testing them in the personal context and environment, as well as reflecting these processes are the starting points for developing a constructivist perspective on empowerment processes which are actually knowledge processes.             

References

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Arthur, B 1996, Returns in the New World of Business, Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug, pp.100-109.

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Schaurhofer, M & Peschl, M F 2005, 'Autonomy: starting point and goal of personal and social change: A constructivist perspective on knowledge management in empowerment processes, Kybernetes, vol. 34, no. 1/2, pp. 261-277.

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Young, R 2009, Planetary knowledge – personal knowledge management in a global economy, retrieved on 2 December 2009, from http://www.knowledge-management-online.com/personal-knowledge-management.html.

 

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